How Channel 5 joined forces with the Spice Girls to build a TV brand
From getting the Spice Girls to cut the ribbon at its debut event to pioneering an integrated approach to marketing, the launch of Channel 5 was all about challenging norms and channelling creativity.
The opportunity to launch the fifth, and final, terrestrial TV brand was too good an opportunity to miss for David Brook, who left the Guardian after six years to become director of marketing and communications at Channel 5 in 1996.
“It was pretty much a blank sheet of paper, which was attractive,” he explains. “If you like launching new products, which I do, then to be in at the start was great when it’s packing cases and all to play for.”
Brook had eight months to craft a launch campaign and recruit a team across marketing, PR, research and strategy, as well as convincing the general public they needed a fifth TV channel.
He immediately saw an opportunity for marketing to define the direction of Channel 5. Initial research found a gap in the market between mainstream brands such as the BBC and ITV, which were not perceived as modern, and edgy Channel 4, which was not seen as mainstream.
And so Channel 5’s modern mainstream positioning was born, with the objective of delivering a younger 16- to 34-year-old audience. With the positioning nailed down, Brook assembled an integrated task force to deliver on the launch strategy. Known as Team Five, the group spanned PR, research, creative, media buying and visual identity.
Working on the creative was Mother, which was founded with Channel 5 as its first client. The agency’s co-founder Robert Savile was working at ad agency GGT at the time, which had a conflict of interest and so couldn’t pitch for the Channel 5 business.
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